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Reclamation to Focus on Partnership During Colorado River Conference

For Release:      December 15, 2021

LAS VEGAS – Facing continued dry hydrology, the Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Reclamation will focus on partnerships and cooperation during the Colorado River Water Users Association’s annual conference Dec. 14 – 16, in Las Vegas. The recent enactment of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (PL 117-58), with historic investments in drought contingency planning on the Colorado River, will be an important backdrop during the event.

“Drought doesn’t just impact one community—it affects all of us. The Biden-Harris administration is taking action to provide relief to impacted communities now, while also making important investments that will help us wisely manage our shared resources across the West. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will help ensure that irrigators, Tribes and adjoining communities receive adequate drought assistance in order to build resilient communities and protect our water supplies for people and the natural environment,” said Assistant Secretary of Water and Science Tanya Trujillo, who is the keynote speaker at the conference.

The three-day meeting is a significant gathering for federal agencies, Tribes, states, non-governmental organizations, representatives of the Republic of Mexico and water managers from across the entire Colorado River Basin, and comes as the basin faces multiple challenges.

The basin is experiencing accelerated impacts of drought and low-runoff conditions. Climate change is making these conditions more extreme and extensive. The two main storage reservoirs of the Colorado River System, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, are at historic low elevations and there is the potential for their continued decline. The most recent projections show the potential impacts of a dry November across the basin.

“This is a time of great challenge, but it is also a time of great opportunity for science-based and cooperative measures,” said Reclamation Deputy Commissioner of Operations David Palumbo. “The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law will provide the funding to help advance projects and actions to protect the Colorado River System.”

At the conference, Reclamation leadership will reinforce their commitment to collaborating with all parties on the river and implementing the Infrastructure Law in a transparent manner to ensure funded projects benefit the basin states, Tribes, water users, hydropower contractors, non-governmental organizations and other key stakeholders, including the public.

The Colorado River Basin parties will demonstrate their continued cooperation and negotiation during the conference with several key actions, including:

  • The signing of a Memorandum of Understanding among Reclamation, the Lower Basin States of Arizona, California and Nevada, and water agencies in those states with a goal of saving an additional 500,000 acre-feet of water or more in Lake Mead in 2022 and 2023, and assessing needs through 2026. Known as the “500+ Plan,” this commitment is over and above all current water reduction and saving obligations, required by the Drought Contingency Plans and 2007 Interim Guidelines (Colorado River Interim Guidelines for Lower Basin Shortages and Coordinated Operations for Lake Powell and Lake Mead), and is an important undertaking to protect water supplies in Lake Mead.
  • The announcement of important additional water contributions from the Gila River Indian Community and the Colorado River Indian Tribes to enhance Lake Mead’s water storage and continue to help reduce the risk of Lake Mead’s decline to critically low elevations.
  • The signing of a resolution of cooperation between the Lower Basin States and non-governmental organizations to further memorialize their collective commitment to assist in actions to protect Colorado River system sustainability.

The events listed above are scheduled to take place Wednesday, Dec. 15, at 1 p.m. (PST) at Caesars Palace in the Palace III conference room. In addition, Reclamation staff will participate in numerous presentations, panel discussions and other events during the conference in a continued effort to foster productive discussions and collaborative decision-making about the future of the Colorado River system. A key example includes the continued work between Reclamation and the Upper Basin States of Colorado, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming to develop a Drought Response Operations Plan to implement, if needed, beginning in April 2022.

Visit our website for the latest Colorado River System projections, or like and follow our new Colorado River Basin Facebook page to learn more about basin operations and Reclamation’s activities at the CRWUA conference.

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Contact:           Upper Basin Region: Becki Bryant, 801-524-3659, ucbpao@usbr.gov
Lower Basin Region: Patti Aaron, 702-726-1921, paaron@usbr.gov

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About Author

Michael McGreer Mesquite, Nevada
Dr. Michael Manford McGreer is managing editor of Nevada-today.com and writes on issues that impact public policy.

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